Colorado U.S. Attorney Troy Eid said that these jurisdictional loopholes are being exploited by drug dealers.
"Indian reservations are being used as a business development tool by the large drug trafficking organizations," Eid said.
In a drug bust in May 2006 in Wyoming's Wind River Indian Reservation occupied by the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes, Eid talked about a business plan seized by authorities that outlined how the drug organization wanted to replace alcohol abuse with meth abuse.
"It described in very graphic terms how they planned to establish romantic relationships with women, get them hooked and then get them to deal," Eid said. "Establishing relationships with these women was designed to help them gain acceptance in the community."
The business plan also outlined how non-American Indians should handle the drugs while on the reservation because tribal police couldn't arrest them, Eid said.
A law passed by Congress in the 1800s gave the federal government jurisdiction on Indian reservations only for major crimes and didn't specify drugs. Court cases, including the landmark 1978 Oliphant Supreme Court case, found tribal police had no criminal jurisdiction over non-American Indians, leaving countless jurisdictional questions that the Four Corners Indian Country Conference that began Monday seeks to answer.
Pascua Yaqui Police Chief Tracy Nelson said a court challenge has left her with few tools to deal with non-American Indians who commit crimes such as domestic violence in her 2-square mile reservation carved out in Tucson, Ariz. While such cases were once prosecuted in county court, a challenge in the late 1990s established that such cases needed to be in federal court, where only five cases out of hundreds were prosecuted last year.
"That's the biggest glitch," she said. "If it gets too bad, four, five, or six calls, we can get an exclusionary order to kick (suspects) off the reservation.
"I don't know how to correct it. It has to be corrected in Congress."
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